Schmuck: If Duquette-Showalter relationship is prickly, it might not be a bad thing

Orioles manager Buck Showalter with executive Dan Duquette before the start of Game 3 of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014.

The whisper campaign heated up when the Orioles cooled off in mid-August. The club's soft offseason had come home to roost and baseball operations chief Dan Duquette suddenly had to answer again for decisions made months earlier that might have altered the course of what was becoming a lost season.

So, it was entirely predictable that Duquette's future with the team would come into question and his relationship with manager Buck Showalter would be the subject of speculation.


The reason that it was relevant was that the club's four-year feel-good era looked like it was coming to an end.

Maybe it is. The Orioles are back playing well and keeping faint hope alive for a return to the playoffs, but their long-predicted free-agent exodus is almost upon us and a combination of factors has left the organization looking ahead to 2016 with trepidation. Minor league depth is a huge problem and the club's reluctance to spend heavily in the free-agent market makes a quick year-over-year fix seem unlikely.


Throw in the uncertainty and internal resentment that was generated by Duquette's dalliance with the Toronto Blue Jays last winter and you can't help but wonder whether the front office will look the same next spring as it does now.

Nevertheless, it probably will. Both Duquette and Showalter are signed through the 2018 season and they have achieved more in the past four years than anybody could have imagined during the string of 13 losing seasons that preceded their arrival.

The Orioles' volatile ownership, for all the criticism it has taken over the past couple of decades, has never been quick to replace top executives and managers, so it seems unlikely that Duquette is out unless he wants to be and, well, Showalter's popularity remains unquestioned.

Is there friction between them? Undoubtedly, but that is the normal state of most baseball front offices. There is a sort of creative tension that exists between the manager and general manager, who usually come from different baseball backgrounds and each bring a different perspective to the building and operation of a team.

Sometimes, that relationship doesn't work. And we saw an example of that recently in Los Angeles, when a power struggle between Angels manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto resulted in Dipoto exiting the front office during the middle of this season.

Showalter and Duquette always have been publicly supportive of each other and remain so. They also have always been very dissimilar personalities with different baseball world views. So you can bet that there have been plenty of disagreements over personnel acquisitions and roster decisions.

It is the manager's job to take the players he is given and mold them into a winning team, which is a task at which Showalter has few peers. But that task would have been a lot easier this year with Nelson Cruz in the middle of the lineup.

It is the general manager's job to fill the organizational rosters with talent, which is a task that Duquette approaches with his own unique style. It often includes the acquisition of low-priced players and long-shot projects, which is almost certainly approved of by ownership but is a source of great frustration to fans who would like to see the Orioles spend more liberally to keep the team positioned for the playoffs.


No doubt, the speculation about the future of the front office would be even more intense if the Orioles had not turned a competitive corner a couple of weeks ago and embarked on a surprising march back to the fringes of the American League wild-card race.

The three-game sweep in Washington this week has made a return to the postseason almost plausible, though the Orioles still are a huge long shot to outrace the teams in front of them for the second wild-card berth.

Still, the fact that they have regained their competitive edge is a tribute to Showalter's motivational skills and an affirmation that Duquette has assembled enough talent to make good on his original promise to make the Orioles a "competitive" team every year. But how this season — and the job both did this year — will be viewed remains an open question that will be heavily impacted by the club's performance over the final 10 days of the regular season.

The Orioles probably won't make the playoffs, but if they continue to play well and finish the season with a winning record, it'll be hard to make a case that the supposedly uneasy Showalter-Duquette partnership doesn't work.


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at